Monday, December 3, 2007

Short fiction... By me!

A story you say? Well, did you know they made a movie about me? It’s all very interesting.

Well, I guess you could say I made a movie about me. I was the muse, the source of funding, the casting director; I took a production going downhill fast and brought it into the light, so to say.

It was ahead of its time. It didn’t do well at all when it first came out, but you can still buy it today, on DVD. In fact, I have quite a few copies lying around, if you’d ever like to see it. Some would say it’s a bit of narcissism on my part, but who wouldn’t want to see their own life story memorialized for all time on a bit of shiny plastic?

I even lobbied for my charges to have parts in the production. That definitely was ahead of its time. Back then, freaks were kept in the shadows, sequestered in tents for those willing to shell out a few cents to peek behind the curtains. A whole movie about them was seen as the height of distaste. Instead of hiding them away, I thrust them into the national spotlight, only to have the ignored, or even worse, thought as hideous creatures to revile. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Where to begin, where to begin?

I was born to a life in the circus. I was a beautiful young girl, coddled by my parents and loved by all of the performers who made their trade under the bigtop. I grew up amongst seals, elephants, clowns, and of course, the freaks who were popular in sideshows at the time. They had their own tent with a barker who charged for each attraction.

From a young age, I had tutors in song, dance, literature, languages, and gymnastics. It was understood I would one day become a part of my parent’s high-wire and trapeze show. Alas, they died when I was quite young. It was up to their circus family to take over their jobs in my life.

At the age of 15, I became the star attraction of Rosenthald and Regent’s Circus of Wonder. I could hear the gasps of my adoring audience as I tiptoed above their heads on a wire or flipped through the air off my trapeze. Their awe-filled faces became a blur as I executed precise tricks in the air.

Soon, my face was plastered over all circus promotions. I like to believe they came to see my well-publicized beauty as well as my daring acts. I have to admit, I carried a healthy ego around in addition to my talent and skill.

Unfortunately, the events that led up to my present condition were caused by my own pride and foolishness. Back then, I saw the other performers and workers in the circus as inferior to me, especially those in the freakshow. I thought up elaborate schemes to make them seem ever more pathetic than I thought they were. I befriended them, only to betray and make jokes of them. The most heinous act I committed was to steal a tiny man away from his family.

I made it clear I wanted to start a romance with the man. He plied me with gifts and eventually moved in with me. I had many lovers on the side. When I was assured the man was devoted to me in every way, I cast him aside in a public display. It demeaned him; he ran out of the tent weeping. The other freaks turned on me that night, but they set out for vengeance two days later, when the man was found hanging from my lowered trapeze.

At gunpoint, I was led to his body and restrained as they slashed at my face and body with any sharp instruments they could find: cutlery, switchblades, razors, it’s had to know what all cut into my trembling flesh. They planned to make a more elaborate job of it and accept me into their fold, as an entirely different kind of attraction.

Before they had the chance to do any debilitation damage, a roar sounded from somewhere close by. I could see a hulking, bestial monster throw the freaks to the side through my own blood and tears. With a growl, he demanded they end their defacements and bandage and nurse me. I remember it clearly as he told them if I hadn’t learned my lesson, I would every time I looked in the mirror. That said, he disappeared.

The next few weeks are a blur to me. While they had good intentions, the freaks weren’t doctors, and they weren’t likely to call one for me, a traitor and fiend. My body battled infection and was overtaken by fever. The freaks wondered what to do with me when it became clear I would never recover. Fortunately, the monster from the night of my attack was watching and waiting. As my life ebbed, he made a deal with the freaks and carried me away to a small island off the coast of New England.

He carried me to a small farmhouse, where his noble, cat-like visage changed into a shrunken, smushed in wreck. I was placed on a soft, relatively clean bed as he readied the room. He surrounded me with mirrors and gathered a bucket of water, some towels, and more blankets. From time to time, what I took to be his servants came in and out of the room and followed his orders.

Once everything was in place, he unwrapped my bandages. The undersides were covered in dried blood and pus; many times bits of scabs and flesh came off with the fabric. He was surprisingly gentle, even though his hands were gnarled and his fingers resembled claws. I was too far gone to register horror at his appearance, I only appreciated his ministrations.

I blearily remember glancing at my own reflection, but even this didn’t bother me.

I didn’t notice what he was doing until drops of foul-tasting liquid began to slide down my throat. That’s when the real pain started.

I soon realized the pain-filled howls were mine. My new caretaker held me and whispered to me as he wiped at my brow with warm, wet towels. Even though my mind was filled with agony, I couldn’t help but watch the fascinating sight of my wounds opening as my skin was pulled taut across my body. Soon, the wounds were dripping with a black, oozing sludge. My flesh seemed to wither, and a foul odor began to seep out from my skin.

After a few days of my transformation, my skin was taking on a distinctive gray cast, not unlike that of my new master. Where my wounds gaped open was now a tough layer of what looked like black, shiny leather. My lips stretched taut against my face, and my eyes seemed caved in and yellow. The majority of my nose was hanging to the side from a long, threadlike connection of skin; I decided to pull it off soon after. It wasn’t doing me any good.

This entire time, Master was sitting by me, feeding me blood from the strange creatures at his beck and call. His voice was quiet as he explained why he chose me. Why I was given the curse I now see as freedom. I have been given the chance to redeem myself for my former nastiness; that a man lost his life because of my evil intentions means I may spend the rest of eternity atoning.

Because of the size of the village we were in, he said it was impossible for me to stay. However, they would always welcome me in times of need. He helped me to learn the skill of 1,000 faces, so I would always be able to fit in with mortal and kindred society. He taught me some other things, then sent me on my way to rejoin the circus.

I took up my old role as aerial acrobat and took on the new role of protecting the freaks under my care, both from the normal performers and from the outside world. I also did double duty every once in a while, dropping my disguise in towns where the marks wanted to see some extra frights or taking on a new, lesser deformed persona. By day, I learned to hide myself from prying eyes while asleep, which was a must when we were on the road and were subject to inspections and investigations by the local police.

Now we come to the best part, my movie!

Because I felt so terrible about what happened to the midget who fell in love with me and wanted to make things better, at least for his family, after a few years I managed to get in touch with a film-maker who was all the rage in the kindred world. He directed a rendition of Dracula; I hired him to film a version of my own life story. I’d previously published a short story rendition of the events in a magazine, and I made sure he got a copy. I promised to help fund the film, if he would cast my freak-friends in starring roles and give me a hefty chunk of the earnings. My friends were thrilled to be off the road for a bit. They were also excited at the prospect of making a mainstream film that presented them as they saw themselves- as real people capable of love, greed, revenge, and the like. A few facts from my story were changed, and my own transformation was much different in the movie. But, everyone knew it was about me.

When they saw themselves on the screen, it was a delight to see the light in their faces. Even I took on a small role, in disguise. Unfortunately, the viewing public wasn’t excited about our endeavor. It was soon clear our endeavor was a flop. We went back on the road, and I tried to find more ways to support and nurture the family I’d destroyed through my old errant ways.

These days, all of my old friends are either dead or moved on. I know a couple are back with Master, in that old, forgotten town filled with generations changed by the blood he gives them. Before the last of the old ones died off, I followed them around the country until they moved to Gib-town; my family retired in Sarasota. Now there’s only one boy left for me to take care of, an orphan going to a school over there. This is the closest I want to get to the rebel territory, but I send him money so he can continue his education and rise above the lot the rest of society would like to give him.

But, he’s growing up. Soon, I won’t have to take care of him any more. While he might have children of his own, and I’ll always be there if he needs me, I think it’s time to make a place of my own. As one person, I can help a limited number of people. When I was out with the troupe, I took care of 20 to 30 at the most. With the backing of the Nosferatu and the Camarilla, I know I can help a greater number realize their full potential and give them safe places to live.

Master leaves his village less and less. Only a few islanders dare leave for the mainland; even they are too alien to venture across the waters. Even with babies born all the time, there is no place for me there. Too small of a blood pool. So, for the first time in my life, I’m venturing out on my own. I know it will be extraordinary.

I wrote this as a back story for my new Vampire: The Masquerade character, Tikvah. It's for an OWBN LARP; writing back stories is my favorite part of the character creation process. Picture is from Orianna Studios.

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